Thursday, November 09, 2006


Our elected Public Defender (“Mr PD”) came to our school to talk about professionalism in the courtroom. It was really wonderful. He was so gracious and polite while the 21 year olds around us chomped on free pizza and noisily drank soda.

This is probably some kind of old hat for all you PDs, but for those new to public defense – new to litigation in general – a lot of what he said was very interesting:

- The prosecutor’s job is to seek justice. He has an absolute duty to give mitigating or exculpatory evidence to the other side. It may hurt his case, but it does not hurt his cause.

- Just because you’re a lawyer and others aren’t, does not make you in any way better than them. However, don’t try to apply this to judges!

- The Bailiff keeps security in the courtroom. If you want to get some fried chicken for your capital defendant, which he hasn’t had in over a year, make sure you and the Bailiff get along. If he says he thinks something “might” be a problem, the Judge is automatically going to say No.

- True victims deserve compensation; they do not deserve to run a courtroom.

- Apparently, our Bar was considering a new, informal system whereby attorneys could complain about other attorneys’ courtroom behavior. The attorney would be brought before a sort of “peer review committee” – which might include your very judge!! Mr PD wasn’t too keen on that. Also, judges were (of course) excluded from such review. Mr PD asked, “Well, why not the judges?” A judge answered back, “Well, we’re not your peers.” “Ah,” said Mr PD. “Then I’ll not send my attorneys to your panel.” Perhaps needless to say, the State Attorney had already proclaimed to his office, “I’m firing anybody who doesn’t go!”

- The former elected Public Defender was a very nice man, by all accounts. He also never complained about a judge to the Judicial Qualification Committee (JQC), the judicial ethics board. Well, Mr PD, a bit before being elected, found out about two judges who convened a quick re-sentencing of a defendant – with no warning or notice to the assigned pd, and first thing in the morning – because the victim apparently didn’t feel the defendant was given harsh enough treatment. Lord only knows to what family this victim belonged. Anyway, so the deed was done, and Mr PD met with the judges, told them he’d like to resolve this amicably – just apologize, reverse, etc. The judges refused. Mr PD said that, in that case, he was going to look at JQC. “Ha ha,” laughed the judges, “you’re running for office. Your boss never did it. You’ll never do it.” Well guess what! And, ever since then, Mr PD only has to show his face after, say, a judge’s derogatory remark about lesbians, or, say, a remark about how “Yes, miss pd, that result probably wasn’t what you were looking for, but judging by your shoes and handbag, a bit of shopping after work should set you right as rain . . .” Oh la la!


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